Cooler weather and residents and businesses heeding calls for increased water conservation led to a significant drop in region wide water use during the first half of this year, the San Diego County Water Authority reported today.
Urban water use between January 2009 and June 2009 decreased by nearly 9 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2008, according to estimates Water Authority staff presented to the Board of Directors.
Preliminary data also showed acceleration in conservation in June 2009. During that month, which featured much cooler weather and concerted public outreach by water agencies about the onset of mandatory supply cutbacks and water use restrictions, urban water use fell by 24 percent compared to a year earlier.
Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, Water Authority Board Chair, applauded the public’s conservation efforts and urged people to sustain their water-saving practices.
“The community is pulling together and making a big difference in saving water, but our true tests still lie ahead,” Lewis said. “For example, we need to continue to save as much water as we can through the summer months, when water demand is highest – and July already has produced hotter weather than normal.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Water Authority’s largest supplier, ordered a 13 percent cut in water deliveries to the San Diego region effective July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010. MWD ordered the cut in response to supply shortages created by regulatory restrictions on water deliveries from the Bay-Delta in Northern California, drought, and falling water storage levels statewide.
In turn, the Water Authority began reducing water deliveries to its 24 local member agencies by 8 percent on July 1. Efforts to diversify the region’s water supply portfolio enabled the Water Authority to partially offset the cut from MWD.
To help reduce water demand, the Water Authority has declared a Level 2 “Drought Alert” condition, which enables its member agencies to activate mandatory water use restrictions on residents and businesses, such as limits on outdoor watering. Most member agencies put mandatory restrictions in place by July 1.
The Water Authority will continue to closely monitor water use and water deliveries to its member agencies to determine if the region is staying on course to meet its mandatory water savings goal.
Lewis said he hopes that conservation efforts so far and over the next year will begin to translate into permanent behavior changes. “We need to make saving water part of our lifestyle to help us cope with multi-year supply challenges posed by regulatory restrictions on water deliveries and the potential for lingering drought conditions,” he said.
Lewis also cautioned that a possible return to a wetter “El Niño” weather pattern this winter, which is being predicted by several weather agencies, most likely would not bring enough relief to end the current water crisis because of regulatory restrictions in the Bay-Delta.
“The Bay-Delta is broken and hamstrung by regulatory restrictions on pumping water in order to protect threatened fish. That means we will receive much less water than we normally would from this crucial source every year,” Lewis said. “Regulatory restrictions hinder the ability of water agencies to refill reservoirs to protect against the inevitable return to dry conditions. This underscores the need for the public to sustain its conservation practices.
“The Water Authority will continue to work with other water agencies and leaders in Sacramento to make immediate fixes and implement long-term measures that will restore water supply reliability and sustain the Bay-Delta’s ecosystem.”
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